Liver Channel Cold Stagnation

cold mountains - bad for large intestine luo channel symptoms
Mountains - cold and beautiful

To state the obvious, this – Liver Channel Cold Stagnation – definitely refers to the Liver channel and is caused by Cold!

By ‘Cold’ I mean, for example, cold weather, or a cold wind when you aren’t wearing enough, or cold water after exposure to which you don’t dry off, put on clothes and warm up quickly enough.

For more about how Chinese medicine understands an invasion by a cold wind, click on Wind-Cold.

However, this cold can come from other causes, described below.

As you’ll see, the symptoms aren’t much fun. Fortunately I don’t see it very often, but I’ve diagnosed and treated it when people complained of, for instance, cystitis, headache and back pain. So it covers a whole range of conditions.

Liver channel
Liver Meridian


By the way, although there is often discomfort along the channel shown above, the Liver meridian also extends internally, round the genitals, through the abdomen, to the stomach and gall bladder, through the lungs, the neck and throat to the eyes and vertex, with another link to the cheek and inside of the lips.

Theoretically, anywhere along this pathway you could get symptoms of this syndrome.

Typical Symptoms of Liver Channel Cold Stagnation

  • Pain in the lower abdomen: can be stabbing or boring, but is more often heavy and dragging
  • In men, a distending, heavy, dragging pain or straining sensation in the groin or testes 
  • In women this is felt in the lower abdomen over the bladder or in the vagina
  • A bearing down pain in the testes or lower abdomen
  • Similar pain is sometimes felt in the torso
  • Headaches caused by this syndrome are usually quite severe and constricting, often felt at the vertex or on the sides
  • Pain is relieved by warmth and, to a lesser extent, rest
  • Scrotum or vagina may be cold and contracted, and better from warmth
  • Aversion to cold
  • Thirstless or much less thirsty than normal; prefers hot drinks 
  • Urine pale
  • Diarrhoea, or loose stools 
  • Movements are slow
  • Speech is slow
  • Mood is withdrawn. Don’t confuse this mood with that of Stagnant Liver Qi!
  • Tongue: pale and moist with a white coat
  • Pulse: deep, wiry or slow


The main Key feature is the contracting pain or the distending sensation in the lower abdomen, often referring down to the scrotum or vagina.

The pain is better for warmth.

Aetiology of Liver Channel Cold Stagnation

The cause is Cold, which can arise from external or internal causes.

Externally, it can be due to exposure to cold weather or cold circumstances (though theoretically any kind of weather could produce the symptoms).


Photo by Renata Schaitza on Unsplash


It can begin from wearing too few clothes, a common problem where fashion demands it, or from getting wet, even on moderately warm days, then allowing a cool breeze to blow you dry.

Internally, this may arise when there is deficiency of Yang, which occurs usually only after a period of time, such as after a serious illness, or where there has been a condition of dampness for years, or in old age. It can occur suddenly, or at least much faster, after heavy lifting or extra-ordinary physical effort, but here there would also be cold, invading after you exhausted yourself.

Cold has a particular characteristic: it contracts. 

It also has a tendency to ‘descend‘ symptoms, in the same way as heat makes symptoms ascend, but in the opposite direction.

So here the pain is usually in the lower abdomen, which is where the Liver Channel is said to be ‘distributed’, or round the sexual organs.

Whereas Heat speeds up Blood circulation, Cold can lead to stagnation of Blood, then pain.


You might get Liver Channel Cold Stagnation from hanging around here!
Cold mountain, good for skiing down and climbing up, but no use if you want to keep warm


Hence the improvement from heat, which can come from hot compresses, warm or hot water bottles, warm drinks, mulled wine and so on, including a hot bath. Acupuncture needles with moxa on them or round their base can get right down to the acupuncture point which needs help, and warm it up.


Treatment of Liver Channel Cold Stagnation

Disperse the Cold and calm the Liver. Moxa is excellent for this! 

Sounds simple doesn’t it?! Often it is – surprisingly so. 

But not always.

In any case, after clearing the Cold, any sensible acupuncturist would urge the patient to continue with treatment a bit longer, so as – if possible – to strengthen the patient’s metabolism and immune force (these are Western medicine words that don’t really or fully convey what Chinese medicine means by Upright Qi).

The aim would be to make the patient less susceptible to the next attack by Cold.

Treatment would include suggestions for foods to avoid (almost certainly the patient should reduce or avoid Cold Foods), foods to eat more of (probably more Hot Foods), some exercises or stretches that might help, and other things to do or not do.


Other Liver syndromes

The Liver is just one of twelve organ energies (zang-fu is the correct term) that maintain and energise your body. Amongst its various jobs, probably the main one is to keep your Qi moving smoothly. When this goes wrong, you get Liver Qi Stagnation – see below.

If that becomes a major problem, it leads to more health-threatening conditions such as described under Liver Fire or Liver Wind.

Liver Qi stagnation is potentially a major health issue for many people, which is why, although the pages listed below describe some of the symptoms, there are very many more which my book ‘Qi Stagnation – Signs of Stress‘ explains, with what to do about them.

Read about the main Liver syndromes by clicking on the following:

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